Fire & Water #210 – What If? Justice League Detroit

Shag and Rob hop on the Cosmic Treadmill and head back to 1984 and create their own custom Justice League Detroit line-ups! Find out what heroes they chose to pick up the mantle of the World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, as well as line-ups submitted by Nuclear Subs!

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26 responses to “Fire & Water #210 – What If? Justice League Detroit

  1. It’s interesting that almost nobody poached members from the Legion of Super-heroes. (Apart from, technically, Supergirl) even though there’s precedents for members of that team spending extended time in the present era.

    (Brainiac 5 would be my pick, which would probably turn the entire era into an extended prologue to Crisis on Infinite Earths.)

  2. Flash have shown “Gypsy” already. She is a Breacher (like Vibe) who works as a cross-dimensional bounty hunter. The showrunners have shipped her and Vibe. Her father is played by Danny Trejo.

  3. This was a fun episode, especially hearing everyone else’s team.

    I will say that I did not submit my first list because I realiEd I was making a JLD -JLD. D for (Creeper, Hawk and Dove, Shade the Changing Man, The Question, Odd Man) and D for ‘duh’ Supergirl. So I had to submit my final list with just a couple of Ditko characters, and Hawk and Dove seemed to be the best for a team dynamic.

    I love that Supergirl was such an kverwhelming choice. She was art of the Robinson legacy league (Supergirl, Dick Grayson Batman, Donna Troy, Jade, Jessie Quick were all in that team) and the JlUnited book by Lemire. And in 1984 she could have used a direction and exposure. Who knows, maybe she wouldn’t have been killed a mere year later if she were on the team.

    There were some great ideas floated here. I love the idea of Black Orchid, cowboy Vigilante, Paul Kirk Manhunter, Captain Marvel Jr. and Dr. Occult!

    And I will remind Rob that I am ready to discuss at length that Transformers the Movie is Hitchcockian in its magnificence. Rob, cover this on Film and Water and ‘light our darkest hour’!!!

  4. What a great idea! I have to admit, the idea of Dr Occult came from Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo’s “Unlimited Powers” pilot, but the Dr O there was very different.

    I strongly disagree with Shag’s anti-Batgirl stance. She’s would function wonderfully in the League. She’s a great detective, a strategist, and good in a fight. Plus, she’s a hell of a lot easier to work with than Batman.

    I do find the inclusion of the Dial H for Hero characters intriguing, but I am confused about one key aspect of their ability – do they have full knowledge and control of their powers immediately upon their receipt? Or do they have to figure it out for however long they possess those powers? And here’s why they’re a bad idea – a team functions best in knowing the abilities and weaknesses of their teammates. A constant wildcard(s) would make any strategizing next to impossible. How could anyone plan???

  5. My original tablet finally died, so I’m no longer automatically downloading anybody’s shows, and I wasn’t motivated to pursue many in the past couple of weeks anyway. I unfortunately missed last week’s episode, although I will soon catch up because that’s one of my favorite Satellite Era League stories. Didn’t get to hear the call for parallel universe Detroit teams ahead of time, and underestimating my passion for the team, ended up wasting most of my day deliberating on this…

    So the stated goal of creating the Detroit team was to offer younger, more diverse and grounded members that would allow for greater story options while mirroring the line-ups of top sellers X-Men and New Teen Titans. The consensus response to the Detroit team was that it was under-powered, the new characters needed more time in development to shake off the stink of stereotypes/shortcuts, and that the group generally lacked the grandeur or accomplishment expected from the Justice League banner. I’ll also add that there was a lack of chemistry, direction, and desperate need for more impressive villains.

    As a starting point, we’ll look at the team immediately pre- and post-Annual #2 and field options…

    Who’s Out:

    Aquaman, who needs to work on himself as a solo character rather than serve on a team. I don’t think the problems in his marriage and the repercussions of his son’s death could be adequately addressed in a team setting, and that’s before factoring in the Atlantis monarchy.

    Batman, because he’s running The Outsiders and his books aren’t selling anyway. Batgirl can’t come in because of the preexisting redundancy of having three concurrently published team books prominently featuring Batman Family members (Nightwing, Huntress) at a time when that isn’t even a draw. It would be like having one of the Midnight Sons assigned to each of your top teams today.

    Black Canary, because at this point she’s a supporting player in Green Arrow’s story with little to offer the team beyond gender representation.

    Elongated Man, the happily married amateur sleuth who never should have been in the League to begin with.

    The Flash, because he’s still bowtie Barry, and because the Titans already have a more interesting speedster in a better costume.

    Green Arrow, because the Robin Hood TV show had been off the air for nearly a quarter century. Get with the times.

    Hawkman & Hawkwoman, who needed to take part in a Shadow War, and who wear birds on their heads. Birdheads were not in fashion this season.

    Martian Manhunter, who is too powerful, too silly looking, and the Martians of this time period have little to offer once the attempted invasion is thwarted.

    Red Tornado, because I just said Red Tornado.

    Superman, because you mute any illusion of peril when the Man of Steel is at your side. Ditto Supergirl, so she’s not in.

    Zatanna, recovering from battle injuries and called to her father’s side to address the growing mystical threat in Swamp Thing.

    The Story:

    We’ll still start with an Earth-Mars War, but since we no longer need to manufacture a reason for J’onn J’onzz to stick around, it will feature a major twist. The Green Martians still attack against the wishes of Manhunter, and he still plays a role in the resolution, but he continues to lead the Desert Dwellers on New Mars at the conclusion. In my version, Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman all participate in a battle against fewer but more powerful green Martians who destroy the Satellite. In this instance though, Red Tornado is “killed” a year early, and most of the ejected Satellite era members without solo titles are left in traction for the immediate future, unable to serve. As a parting word of caution, J’onzz reveals to the remaining Leaguers that Earth has become overwhelmingly infiltrated with covert alien spies in an ongoing silent invasion, and they in turn are using the cold war as cover for intraspecies conflicts. Further, the green Martians invaded in part because the surviving white Martians have been living on Earth since the destruction of their home world, and have taken command of most of the globe’s national superpowers. It is unknown how many there are, and who they might have replaced Body Snatchers style, including members of the super-hero community. J’onn can vouch for the heroes present at the end of the Earth-Mars War, but no one else, so the League has to replenish their ranks with neophytes unlikely to be white Martian spies.

    The League now has a new mission, forced to operate in a more clandestine fashion to root out the embedded aliens that have quietly toppled nations, while still guarding against old threats emboldened by their reduced visibility and decreased power. Flash is still on trial for murder, and has to remain in Central City. Superman and Green Lantern can’t be associated with agents who work toward regime changes. Wonder Woman is similarly restricted, but regardless gathers the new team. She will feed them information through her role in Military Intelligence and remains available for occasional stealth missions in her new/old undercover costume, the Diana Prince white jumpsuit. She’s basically the team’s Mockingbird, or maybe more Professor X, assigning missions and saving the day when things get grim.

    Who’s In:

    Steel (Hank Heywood Jr.) takes part in this revised Earth-Mars War, and so is cleared by J’onzz. It’s natural that the rebuilding League would accept his offer to relocate to The Bunker in Detroit and make use of Heywood Industries’ many toys. This is all financed by Hank Sr., who’s seeking to position his grandson as a premier super-hero. However, he remains a bigot who is appalled by the actions of the renegade Justice League (now sans America, ‘natch) and his boy’s “race mixing.” So far, this is playing out the same as in the real comics, but on a much accelerated timetable, essentially beginning with Annual #2. Matters are worse here though, as Hank Sr. is also unwittingly(?) working with the alien invaders, and Hank Jr.’s loyalties are much more in question, making Steel a fox in the henhouse.

    Vibe: I wrote off Vibe as an embarrassment for years, but between his New 52 rehabilitation as Cisco Ramone and The Flash TV show, he’s now one of the few decent profile representatives with a decades long comics history. No way would I wipe out the first Latin hero to join the League, but George Perez is going to have to take Gerry Conway aside at a convention and give him some tough love about how to handle a Latino. He’ll debut in a revised version of his second, black & red costume that removes the plunging v-neck, with more of the caustic attitude and normal speech patterns from the back half of the original JLD run.

    Gypsy: With the incredible success of Black Panther, it’s become abundantly clear that Marvel Studios has an impending Latinx problem. DC is somewhat better positioned with Vibe and El Diablo, but it would be better still if Cindy Reynolds was Cynthia Reyes instead. She could still be in the Cyndi Lauper/ Madonna / Stevie Nicks mode, but she would initially wear varied stylish street clothes instead of that hideous Esmeralda get-up. Her runaway background is also moved to the front of the run, so we can better understand her character.

    Vixen: No changes needed here. She always rocked.

    Firestorm: Formerly the brash youth, he’s suddenly the eldest brother to a bunch of newbies who mock the heroic conventions and regimentation he’s come to embrace. Further, he’s now required to do most of the heavy lifting as one of the few remaining powerhouses, must juggle two civilian identities, is confused by Vixen’s flirtations, and his burgeoning attraction to Gypsy only compounds his building feud with Vibe.

    Nubia: Selected to serve as Wonder Woman’s replacement and liaison, Nubia’s isolated existence and background with the god Mars makes her one of the few experienced combatants that can be trusted to join. However, it also makes for massive culture shock, and brings out her natural distrust of mankind. Worse, she spends her days watching Vixen come on to everyone but her, and because it’s 1984, her coded lesbianism is manifested through tension with her teammates. Steel does not take her disinterest well, and it feeds into his resentment at all the female members who have refused him.

    The Atom: Replaces Aquaman as the conflicted, antagonistic veteran Leaguer leading the team. He longs to abandon the modern world and return to Princess Laethwen, and is partially motivated by the hope that he might recover alien technology that can locate Morlaidh in the Amazon. Yet, he’s perfectly suited for a more clandestine team, and finds new purposed and value in his expanded role. He also becomes enamored with Vixen, but brushes off her advances to maintain his composure, further complicating his feelings about serving.

    The Long Game:

    The Cadre is uncovered as part of the new team’s first mission in Annual #2, with members on both sides winning and losing before ending in a stalemate. The new characters no longer receive spotlight issues, but rather have their stories intermingled as ongoing narratives while the team continues to pursue the Cadre and white Martians/fifth columnists. This leads to the final confrontation with Overmaster at the end of the initial arc, where he’s beaten through group effort.

    However, over the course of the investigation, the greater threat of Intergang and the agents of Apokolips are uncovered. The team is joined by the Hawks in confronting a Thanagarian plot. Zatanna sends her friend Blue Devil to enlist the League in stopping Morgaine Le Fay, who’s taken control of The Demon and joined with Felix Faust in a power play amidst shake-ups in the magic world. A new Injustice Gang is formed by classic JLA foes The Lord of Time, Weapons Master, Queen Bee, Dr. Destiny, Shaggy Man, and The Key. The Crime Syndicate of America tests the League’s mettle ahead of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

    Following their greatest triumph to date comes tragedy, as Ray Palmer is believed murdered by Hank Heywood Sr. Steel’s heel turn and manipulation of Infinity Inc. sets up an assault by Commander Blanx’s Martian forces which further hobbles the team. Nubia is whisked away by Wonder Woman to Paradise Island with seemingly mortal wounds, at which point the League loses contact with her. Stripped of their resources and on the run, they appear to be easy picking for the revived Secret Society of Super-Villains, softening them up for the big confrontation with Apokolips in #150.

    Surviving is victory unto itself, coming through the salvation of associate heroes, but the League is given renewed vigor by the additions of Orion, Green Lantern John Stewart and a returned Zatanna, They’ll need it, as Prince Jemm enlists the team to take the battle back to New Mars. Meanwhile, the Manhunters strike, the Demons Three capitalize on Post-Crisis instability, Steel founds the xenophobic Crusaders of America from modern incarnations of abandoned Earth-2 mantles, and Lex Luthor forms a revised Secret Society of Super-Villains that better resembles the Legion of Doom. The worst is yet to come though, as Mongul gathers an army of alien threats that includes Despero, Hyathis, Starro, Kanjar Ro, Starbreaker, and more in a final all-or-nothing push that will require the entire surviving JLA to confront. That takes us all the way to #200, resulting in the birth of yet another incarnation of the world’s greatest collective of heroes, whose series is never ever cancelled!

  6. If You haven’t fallen asleep after reading Frank’s dissertation above (arf! Arf!), here’s my JL Detroit pitch: no members who’ve been full members of the League before. No stealing from other teams. None of the new members from the actual JL Detroit: all four are shit. My team gets the blessing of Aquaman, J’onn, Zatanna, and Ralph at a press conference introducing the new team ala Avengers #16. Main squad: Captain Comet, Plastic Man, Supergirl, Jon Stewart, Batgirl, and Ultra the Multi-Alien. As auxiliary members who would serve on call for specific missions, the League would absorb the Marvel Family and the Forgotten Heroes. Captain Marvel would hang around quite a bit early on to help generate goodwill for this all-new team. No magic or telepathy character on the team because those concepts are lame get out of jail cards for authors who’ve written themselves into a corner.

  7. The Batgirl/Supergirl scene in Crisis #4 is interesting to revisit. Despite supposedly having a ‘great friendship’, they really are only in a handful of stories together pre-Crisis. So this scene puts a bit more heft into their relationship than previously seen.

    And while it does paint Supergirl in a very positive light, holding out hope against all odds and nearly sacrificing herself for the life of another (obvious foreshadow to Crisis #7), I have heard Batgirl fans lament the scene as it diminishes Babs in some ways. She is the one who seems locked in despair. I would love to hear what Batgirl fans think of it.

    But for Supergirl fans, that scene is a great reminder of how awesome she is/was.

  8. Apparently I missed the deadline for my contribution to be acknowledged. Or nobody but me likes Jemm, Son of Saturn!
    Almost as soon as I started listening, I suddenly realized what I should have suggested. Joe Staton’s DC Explosion League! If Shag and others can use Earth-2 characters and Earth-S characters, I can use characters who weren’t alive by 1984! Or hadn’t been born yet! And who weren’t American! And had no publishing history at all!
    (Well, nuts, I can’t put the picture in the comment here. Here’s a link to Rip Jagger, everyone!
    The line-up is: Hawkman, Enemy Ace, Big Barda, The Ray, The Odd Man, The Atom, OMAC, An Amazon c. 1,000 BCE, Martian Manhunter, Deadman

  9. Fun episode! Glad to see some of my choices were deemed worthy of discussion, if not worthy of the actual League draft at the end.

    I’m no big Dial “H” fan, myself, but what better way to keep the book fresh than to have a new character every month? Plus he could throw off the team dynamics by always being an unknown element in the heat of battle.

    I would totally be down for the Huntress on the team. I think I would rather have her than Batgirl. At the moment in 1984, DC had kind of pushed Batgirl to the side. She rarely appeared in costume, whereas Huntress had that backup feature folks like me bought Wonder Woman for, and she had appeared in early issues of Infinity, Inc. So she’s double legacy for it and JSA. Triple for Bat-Family. And maybe this would have somehow spared her from death in Crisis.

    If only Rob had said “and ride the AIR wave” at the end.


    1. I will surrender my Babs pick for Huntress. But obviously, post COIE Babs would get retconned as Helena’s replacement.

  10. Some nice surprise suggestions in this episode!

    Quick note to say that adding Mercury of the Metal Men was clever. He would be like the Odo (of Deep Space 9) of the team. The only thing is that his body’s been destroyed more times than Red Tornado.

    Chris King from Dial H for Hero really scratches that Ben 10 itch.

    Shade the Changing Man is a cool choice!

      1. I’ve always heard that “Ben 10” was in fact born out of a rejected pitch for a “Dial H” series. Also, I guess, I’m the resident Adventure Comics era Dial H fan here, so, I’ll address some things from the podcast and the comments here:

        1) DC didn’t publish the Chris and Vickie version of Dial H “forever.” It had about a year-long run in Adventure, then it had a decent stay as a backup in New Adventures of Superboy.
        2) They were far more than just one “throwaway” character in each issue of the Adventure series. Chris and Vickie often assumed at least two new super-IDs in each story, and there were often two stories per issue. Also, these characters were sent in by readers, so they may have seemed throwaway to some, but they meant a lot to the kids (and others) who sent them in, dammit! And no, I never sent in any of my characters to the series. I also think that these characters never reappeared once DC’s lawyers caught whiff of the concept.
        3) When Chris and Vickie became heroes, they had instant and full knowledge of their powers and abilities, so the “fish out of water” problem would not be a concern for the team.

        And, with that, I take my leave, before a bunch of comic book podcast fans start calling me a nerd as they all point and laugh at me…

        1. I’ll address your third point – Chris and Vickie might understand how their new abilities work upon activation, but their teammates won’t. That’s what makes them too much of a variable for them to work effectively in a team – in this man’s opinion.

  11. Missed the original deadline, but a great version of the league could include Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and The Chief.

  12. Man, what a great episode! You both had some really great and novel picks. I love all the discussion regarding Supergirl and Batgirl’s conversation in Crisis (I’m assuming we’re all talking about the scene where Kara saves the plane as Batgirl watches on). At around age 7, Crisis (alongside Who’s Who) was my first real introduction to the DCU. While that might seem like a crazy time to come onboard, it offered so many colorful heroes and villains for my little brain to soak up. Anyway, It was their interaction in Crisis that defined these characters for me, so I found it funny that their relationship really wasn’t a thing until right before Kara died. And Rob, I thought the exact same thing about Firestorm with the Detroit League in Legends. He looked great standing with the team. Not sure I can get behind Air Wave (what comics would change my mind??), but Mercury is a pretty outstanding choice. I’ve always bought into Morrison’s take that the League is modern greek pantheon, with the Flash being a stand in for Hermes. Mercury is a fun new twist on that angle. Thanks again for a great episode fellas!

  13. FWIW, I was just reading a 1983 issue of JLA, and in the letter column they reported the results of a poll they had conducted to see which female super-hero readers most wanted to see join. The winner was Supergirl.

  14. Fun episode Shagg and Rob – Justice League Detroit was before my time but really enjoyed the discussion of who goes in and who was omitted in your dream teams.

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